Queer feminist Christian woman of colour, living on Wurundjeri land.
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Handmaids Down Under

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Quokkas, I really enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale. Both book and (2017) adaptation. (The ’80s movie is streaming on Stan – do we need a liveblog? Maybe we need a liveblog. But we’ll also need wine. I mean, I’ll need wine.)

One of the things I enjoyed is that, like a lot of Canadian science fiction — sorry, Margaret Atwood, speculative fiction — it leaves space in its worldbuilding for the rest of the world to exist. Even within the narrow confines of book!Offred’s perspective, we know that Japanese tourism and gender relations maintain the current status quo, or something close to it, and the wider perspective of the Hulu series gives us glimpses of Canada and Mexico.

Sometimes I wonder what that kind of extreme patriarchal dystopia would look like in Australia, given that we were colonised by Georgians and Victorians instead of Puritans.

And other times I wonder, well, while the USA has collapsed and Gilead has formed out of its ashes, what’s happening back home?


Here are some thoughts.

  • For no reason in particular, refugees from America, especially white women, are treated really well, so strange, no one can account for it.
  • Especially if they’re fertile.
  • Officially the fertility crisis has been caused by disease and pollution, but some brave Liberal Party MPs have had the courage to ask … what if it’s because we’re not burning enough coal????
  • Look, I think we know exactly which parties’ voters set up the local chapter of the Sons of Jacob.
  • They’re not sexist, though, ‘cos they still love Pauline Hanson.
  • Mark Latham totally joins up, but he gets kicked out after he starts a punch up
  • Obviously Australia’s not officially adopting the Handmaid system, just like we’re not officially importing Handmaids from the former US.
  • Having said that, SCEGGS has been converted into a Rachel and Leah Center Centre, and Aunt Miranda and Aunt Helen have their cattle prods charged and ready.
  • I was going to make a joke about Aussie Handmaids wearing cork hats instead of Puritan bonnets, but Stephanie told me that millennials sustainable wine consumers have killed the cork industry.
  • The Liberal Party is still pushing a plebiscite on marriage equality, but first they have to make it illegal for queer people to read and write.
  • The Greens have been predicting the end of the ANZUS treaty for years. At this point, the treaty has outlasted the United States. New Zealand keeps going, “Um, guys?”
  • Everything is fine in New Zealand, except that they have too many feijoas and they’re drowning in surplus L&P.
  • Mamamia publishes an article about how empowering it is to be a Handmaid.
  • The writer is not paid.

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" Mamamia publishes an article about how empowering it is to be a Handmaid.
The writer is not paid."
Melbourne, Australia
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Lego announces "Women of NASA" minifigs

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Last year, MIT News editor Maya Weinstock submitted her Women of NASA minifigures design to LEGO Ideas. LEGO has just approved the idea and laster this year or early 2018 will release an official minifig set of these five inspiring women in science:

Margaret Hamilton, computer scientist: While working at MIT under contract with NASA in the 1960s, Hamilton developed the on-board flight software for the Apollo missions to the moon. She is known for popularizing the modern concept of software.

Katherine Johnson, mathematician and space scientist: A longtime NASA researcher, Johnson is best known for calculating and verifying trajectories for the Mercury and Apollo programs — including the Apollo 11 mission that first landed humans on the moon.

Sally Ride, astronaut, physicist, and educator: A physicist by training, Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983. After retiring as a NASA astronaut, she founded an educational company focusing on encouraging children — especially girls — to pursue the sciences.

Nancy Grace Roman, astronomer: One of the first female executives at NASA, Roman is known to many as the "Mother of Hubble" for her role in planning the Hubble Space Telescope. She also developed NASA's astronomy research program.

Mae Jemison, astronaut, physician, and entrepreneur: Trained as a medical doctor, Jemison became the first African-American woman in space in 1992. After retiring from NASA, Jemison established a company that develops new technologies and encourages students in the sciences.

(via Laughing Squid)
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A round-up on why Uber is awful

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Maybe you deleted the Uber app when they scabbed the deportation protest in New York, then re-installed it the next day because convenience outweighed your momentary dalliance with having principles. So here's a brief round-up of reasons why you should have stopped giving them your money years ago.

I had hoped that I could just find someone else's round-up of all the reasons, but now I understand why I couldn't: there are so many and it's such a moving target.

Let's dive right in:

  • 2017: Uber CEO Argues With Driver Over Falling Fares. Travis Kalanick tells a driver to take responsibility for his problems and boasts about a tough culture:
    "Bullshit. You know what? Some people don't like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!"

  • Oh, but he fauxpologized:
    After the video quickly made the media rounds, Uber publicly posted a short email Kalanick sent to all employees. Kalanick apologized to the driver, and added, "I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up." He also appeared to congratulate himself for his apology: "This is the first time I've been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it."

  • 2017: Susan Fowler published an essay alleging that Uber's human resources representatives ignored multiple reports of sexual harassment and sexism during her year-long stint at the company:

    Fowler also wrote that her manager threatened to fire her if she ever reported his boss to HR again -- which is called retaliation and is illegal according to equal employment laws. Fowler also wrote that she made the company's chief technology officer, Thuan Pham, aware that her manager was threatening retaliation -- which he acknowledged was illegal. However, nothing was done about it, Fowler wrote.

  • 2017: Uber says it's 'absolutely not' behind a smear campaign against ex-employee Susan Fowler Rigetti:

    Rigetti took to Twitter this morning to post that people were being contacted for "personal and intimate info" about her, causing many to conclude Uber was behind these actions.

    It's an easy assumption to make, given the company has said it would be holding an independent investigation into the claims and has used similar tactics before. In 2015, Uber hired a CIA-linked intelligence firm Ergo to look into the background of a conservationist suing the company. It used the same firm in 2016 to look into the backgrounds of the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the company.

  • 2017: Inside Uber's Aggressive, Unrestrained Workplace Culture:

    When new employees join Uber, they are asked to subscribe to 14 core company values, including making bold bets, being "obsessed" with the customer, and "always be hustlin'." The ride-hailing service particularly emphasizes "meritocracy," the idea that the best and brightest will rise to the top based on their efforts, even if it means stepping on toes to get there. [...]

    As chief executive, Mr. Kalanick has long set the tone for Uber. [...] Mr. Kalanick, 40, has made pointed displays of ego: In a GQ article in 2014, he referred to Uber as "Boob-er" because of how the company helped him attract women.

    That tone has been echoed in Uber's workplace. At least two former Uber workers said they had notified Thuan Pham, the company's chief technical officer, of workplace harassment at the hands of managers and colleagues in 2016. One also emailed Mr. Kalanick.

    Uber also faces at least three lawsuits in at least two countries from former employees alleging sexual harassment or verbal abuse at the hands of managers, according to legal documents reviewed by The Times. Other current and former employees said they were considering legal action against the company.

  • Oh yeah, that: Uber Cab Confessions:
    But the way he talks now -- which is large -- he's surely making up for lost time. When I tease him about his skyrocketing desirability, he deflects with a wisecrack about women on demand: Yeah, we call that Boob-er.

  • 2016: Uber's process of background checks and accountability remains top notch: Uber drivers accused of 32 rapes and sex attacks on London passengers over the past year:

    Freedom of Information data obtained by The Sun newspaper revealed 32 assault claims were made against employees of the taxi-hailing app in London over the past twelve months, equal to one every eleven days. The figure represents more than a fifth of all claims against taxi and car-hire drivers filed to 14 UK police forces last year, which totalled at 154 allegations including attacks in minicabs and chauffeur vehicles.

  • A very long roundup of articles about Uber and Lyft assaults.

  • 2016: Uber collaborated with Trump, but only until they suffered financially from that decision:

    "We'll partner with anyone in the world as long they're about making transportation in cities better, creating job opportunities, making it easier to get around, getting pollution out of the air and traffic off the streets," Kalanick told employees. [...]

    Outside of the internal pressure, Uber faced other fallout from Mr. Kalanick's stance. More than 200,000 customers had deleted their accounts.

  • 2015: Thinking About Suing Uber? Let This Be a Warning:
    After learning of Mr. Meyer's background as a conservationist, Ergo's investigator, Miguel Santos-Neves, misrepresented himself as he conducted interviews [...] All the "sources believe that I am profiling Meyer for a report on leading figures in conservation," Mr. Santos-Neves said in a message to a superior. [...]

    "The court cannot help but be troubled by this whole dismal incident," the judge added, later noting that the secret investigation had also delved into the background of Mr. Meyer's lawyer, Andrew Schmidt.

    A spokesman for Uber and Mr. Kalanick declined to comment.

  • 2016: Uber illegally launched self-driving cars on the streets of SF, immediately running red lights and literally trying to murder me.

  • 2017: They claimed that the red-light-running was "human error", and that the cars were not in self-driving mode when that happened. They lied.

    But even though Uber said it had suspended an employee riding in the Volvo, the self-driving car was, in fact, driving itself when it barreled through the red light, according to two Uber employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they signed nondisclosure agreements with the company, and internal Uber documents viewed by The New York Times.

  • 2017: Oh gosh, that's too bad: Google's Robocar Lawsuit Could Kill Uber's Future and Send Execs to Prison:

    The lawsuit, which Waymo filed Thursday, alleges former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski secretly downloaded 14,000 proprietary technical files before leaving [...] "From a criminal perspective, I would be surprised if the FBI weren't looking into this."

  • 2014: A senior executive at Uber suggested that the company should consider hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media -- and specifically to spread details of the personal life of a female journalist who has criticized the company:

    Over dinner, he outlined the notion of spending "a million dollars" to hire four top opposition researchers and four journalists. That team could, he said, help Uber fight back against the press -- they'd look into "your personal lives, your families," and give the media a taste of its own medicine.

    Michael was particularly focused on one journalist, Sarah Lacy, the editor of the Silicon Valley website PandoDaily, a sometimes combative voice inside the industry. Lacy recently accused Uber of "sexism and misogyny." She wrote that she was deleting her Uber app after BuzzFeed News reported that Uber appeared to be working with a French escort service. "I don't know how many more signals we need that the company simply doesn't respect us or prioritize our safety," she wrote.

  • Oh yeah, that: Sexist French Uber Promotion Pairs Riders With "Hot Chick" Drivers. "Who said women don't know how to drive?" the Uber blog post asks.
    Thanks to a media backlash, the creepy promo never actually rolled out. "They didn't anticipate the reaction of Uber US," said Pierre Garonnaire, co-founder of Avions de Chasse, the escort service that co-sponsored the idea."In the US, you are more Puritan. For me and most of the people of France, it was a good [idea]. It was fun."

  • 2014: Lyft: "Uber scheduled, canceled 5,000 rides to hassle us":

    CNN reports that people associated with car-on-demand service Uber have been attempting to sabotage an Uber competitor, Lyft, by ordering and canceling as many as 5,000 rides since October 2013. Lyft drivers have also complained that Uber employees will call them to take "short, low-profit rides largely devoted to luring them to work for Uber."

    Lyft claims to have sussed out the fake requests using phone numbers used by "known Uber recruiters." Lyft claims that one Uber recruiter requested and canceled 300 rides from May 26 to June 10, and it said that recruiter's phone number was associated with 21 more accounts with 1,524 canceled rides between them.

    My understanding is that using burner phones to DDoS your competition is completely in line with Libertarian ideals.

  • How To (Really) Delete Your Uber Account.

And, by the way...

Lyft = Uber Lite:

Uber gets a lot of negative press (and rightfully so) for the actions it takes to reduce the pay of its drivers and to deny them basic workers' rights. Yet Lyft often evades similar scrutiny. That doesn't mean it isn't doing many of the exact same things. [...]

The idea that Lyft is a more compassionate or morally sound ride-hailing company is false. It continues to place profitability and ridership growth before fair wages and working conditions for its drivers, using the same methods as Uber. Lyft simply escapes the same level of scrutiny because its market share is so much smaller. [...]

Finally, those who really want to challenge the morally bankrupt model of Uber and Lyft, which denies drivers good benefits, reasonable working conditions and fair pay in the name of profitability, should instead be using public transit wherever possible and fighting to improve it. In November 2016, nearly 70 percent of all public-transit ballot measures were passed by voters, totalling more than $170 billion in additional transit funding. And from a worker standpoint, public-transit workers are generally salaried with benefits, and being a public-transit worker is still a solid path to the middle class.

Lyft saved $126 million by refusing to classify drivers as employees:

According to newly published court documents, Lyft would owe its drivers $126 million in reimbursement expenses for the last four years if the ride-hail service classified them as employees rather than independent contractors. The court documents provide a rare glimpse into the huge amount of cash that companies like Lyft and Uber save by refusing to classify its drivers as employees. [...]

Both Lyft and its much larger rival Uber face class action lawsuits from drivers challenging their classification as independent contractors. Lyft recently settled its lawsuit, agreeing to shell out $12.25 million in compensation to its drivers, while maintaining the right to classify them as non-employees.

Also, Lyft are unrepentant spammers, just in case you needed one more reason to hate them.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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172 days ago
Today in #fuckuber

Anthropology groups organize Foucault read-in for Inauguration Day

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Many groups of scholars and writers are planning teach-ins or readings for Friday, the day Donald J. Trump will be inaugurated as president of the United States. Others are organizing teach-ins to focus on Trump's policies.

Some anthropologists are taking a different approach. They are planning events that day in which people -- together at locations across the country or virtually connected -- will read and discuss a lecture presented by Michel Foucault, the late philosopher, as part of a series he gave at the Collège de France. The lectures have been published as a book, Society Must Be Defended. The read-in idea is being backed not only by the scholars who have organized the events but by the popular anthropology blog Savage Minds and the journals American Anthropologist, American Ethnologist, Cultural Anthropology and Environment and Society.

"This lecture strikes us as very good to think with at this present point: it demands we simultaneously consider the interplay of sovereign power, discipline, biopolitics and concepts of security, and race. In light of the current sociopolitical situation where the reaction to activism against persistent racism has been to more overtly perpetuate racism as political discourse, we need to remember and rethink the role of racism as central to, rather than incidental to, the political and economic activities of the state," wrote the two scholars who organized the effort in a blog post at Savage Minds. The scholars are Paige West, the Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology, Barnard College and Columbia University, and JC Salyer, term professor of practice at Barnard.

In their blog post, they note that many scholars have, since the election, suggested that it's time for intellectuals to change the way they act and engage with the public. The idea, which West and Salyer reject, "is that scholars need to somehow change what they are doing, and how they are doing it, in order to face this seemingly new political reality in the Unites States.

"While the latter part of this argument has been addressed by numerous scholars and activists who write and think about race, class, sexuality and inequality more generally -- with clear and compelling arguments about how this is not a 'new' political reality for many but rather a kind of contemporary culmination and re-entrenchment of the structures of power and oppression that underpin the entirety of the national political project -- the former part of the argument has been allowed to stand with little critique. Do we need to change what we do and not just how we do it? Not necessarily."

They elaborate: "We worry that by focusing on needing to change what we are doing and how we are doing it we lose sight of what we already do really well. We work to understand the world through research, teaching, writing and reading. Along with this, we produce knowledge that allows others to understand the world and to work to change it." Scholars engage in reading (and talking about what they read) all the time, and so that is a good way to respond to the Trump inaugural, they said.

They proposed -- and many other anthropologists are joining in -- readings of the 11th lecture in the Foucault book. PDFs of the chapter are available here.

Via email, West and Salyer said that in the days since they made their proposal, read-ins have been planned at four universities, while many others are planning to read the chapter individually and to discuss it online.

Asked about this particular lecture, they said, "We picked this reading because it has a real breadth of ideas that can be used to analyze inequality and violence in the modern nation-state. While it is certainly not the only, or even [the] best, reading that could be used to do this, it presents a lot of ideas that still seem very original, and even provocative, over 40 years later. If we had to pick one quote that challenges us to think about how we conceptualize the relationship of the modern state to people and populations it might be where Foucault is working out the paradoxical nature of the regime of biopower, which kills, or lets die, to improve life and concludes that it is through the dividing practice of racism that the state attempts to square the circle: 'I am certainly not saying that racism was invented at this time. It had already been in existence for a very long time. But I think it functioned elsewhere. It is indeed the emergence of this biopower that inscribes it in the mechanisms of the state. It is at this moment that racism is inscribed as the basic mechanism of power, as it is exercised in modern states.'"

Asked if they had any fears that supporters of Trump would mock their activity, they said, "No, of course not."

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241 days ago
Yup. Let's get this one one some mugs and t-shirts.

What to Do in the Coming Days

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This is not a blog I ever wanted to write.

Like many of you, I'd hoped for a different outcome from the U.S. election on Tuesday. I'd hoped we would not end up with a right-wing demagogue as our next president.

Yet here we are.

Many people are validly afraid of what this result means for them, for their loved ones, and for their communities. There are a lot of unknowns about how this will all play out, which only amplifies the fear so many of us feel, particularly if we or our loved ones are marginalized in any way. It's hard to brace for the oncoming wave when you're not certain of its size and shape.

As we move into the coming years, there will be a lot of work to be done. Right now, many of us are still in shock, and in damage control mode, trying to care for ourselves and for those we love.

I've seen discussion about how to talk about the outcome of this election with young people. I want to address young people directly.

I'm so proud of you; of us. Of how many of us voted against the rhetoric, the promise, of hate and fear that colored this election. Of how many of you campaigned and canvassed in the days, weeks and months before it, and how many of you rose up in protest when told that you'll be governed by someone who encapsulates the worst parts of our culture. I know many of you are afraid of what the future holds. But my god, there is so much hope in you, in us, so much readiness to push back against injustice.

All of our staff at Scarleteen come from some activist background or another. And we all belong to at least one group targeted by the rhetoric of Trump and his supporters, the majority of us to more than one. As we have done during other times of darkness, crisis or institutional nonsupport, we will be creating and sharing concrete advice and information about how to navigate sexual health issues, and others related to them, under a government that is hostile to them. But today, from us to you, here is what you can to do care for you and yours.

First and foremost you are allowed your emotions. There will be people, probably adults, who tell you that your anger and protest are pointless and silly. That they will accomplish nothing because this is just the way the world works. Be wary of this argument, especially because it's wrong. The world is what we all make and how we live in it. Resistance is crucial in the face of injustice -- and has always been the only thing that has ever changed it and made it have to answer for itself -- and anger is part of that. The arc of the universe may indeed bend towards justice, but often you have to hammer on it to help it bend that way.

Likewise, if you're saddened or frightened, you are allowed to feel that way too. Some truly hateful things were said and done during this election, and it is not foolishness to fear that there is more hate to come. But as much as you can, try not to let that fear rule you. Even if you're not sure of your own ability to push back against whatever awfulness may come, there are others, young and old, who have already promised to do so. Take comfort from that if you can.

I also strongly recommend you take time to disconnect from social media, the 24 hour news cycle, and the internet as a whole. Are those spaces powerful tools of connection, organization, and information? Of course. But right now they are also echo chambers of people's very raw emotions. While it can be useful to see others feeling as you feel, it can also trap you in a loop of directionless anger and panic, which is draining. So back away from the screen, as much as you can. Go outside if you can, into nature if at all possible. Or find a quiet space to meditate or pray. If you have a pet, sit and play with them. Go to a library and read children's books or books about weird birds. Do anything you can to pull yourself away from the cacophony of emotion and bad news and to a place where you can find some semblance of peace.

Likewise, if soaking in the bad ways you feel feels more right, and more like what you need than doing things to influence your emotions towards the positive, that is just as okay. It's okay to be in your feelings, even when they are awful, and sticking with hard feelings for a while, rather than seeking soothing, is how some people process them. Our executive director has been unable to sleep, and one of the things they've done in the wee hours is watching horror movies, because horror and fear is what they have been feeling, and anything else simply doesn't feel true to them right now.

Going along with taking time away from the news, self-care is also important right now. Your unhappiness and exhaustion will not fix the ills of the world, no matter how much you might wish it could. And more than that, we want every last one of you reading this to get through the next few weeks, months, and years. Here is our basic guide to self-care, and here's another lovely one. Here is a masterlist of calming resources.

Whatever you need to do to help you focus on your well-being, to care for yourself, to make it feel like the world is not coming down around you, I encourage you to do it. Exercising, cooking a nice meal, or doing your nails while watching cartoons won't fix what's going on. But you deserve moments of joy and calm, as well as the experience of having at least some of what feels like life as you knew it before, and making time for them will help you stay in an okay place emotionally and mentally.

In addition to caring for yourself, it can be incredibly healing to care for each other and be kind. In a world flooded with hatred, with suspicion of anyone who is different from you, there is immense power in kindness and gentleness to other humans. Reach out to people you care about, especially if they're in targeted communities. Ask what you can do to help them and support them, even if it's just listening to them or giving them a hug. And if you're hurting, if you're afraid, try to ask for what you need. If you can, surround yourself with people who care about you, and for whom you care. Love does not solve everything, but it makes a strong buffer around the awful aspects of the world.

There is power, too, in acts of kindness to those you don't know. In the last few days, a lot of people have donated to causes they believe in or to local charities. Or they've looked for chances to volunteer with organizations they care about. Helping others, even in small ways, can make you feel as though you can make a positive difference in the world. If you can't, for whatever reason, donate time or resources to a cause, you can do your best to be kind to people you interact with, be they service staff, coworkers, etc. It may not always feel like it, but gentleness when the world would rather you be hardened is a form of resistance.

You may also find it helpful to foster connection and community. If nothing else, connecting with your fellow humans will make you less like a single grain of sand facing a tidal wave. It serves as a reminder that, if you choose to work against injustice, you do not do so alone.

If you're already involved in community organizations, do what you can to reach out to other groups and form coalitions. If your organization is mostly made up of people with privilege, now is the time to talk about what you can do to stand up for the members of your community who are likely to be targeted in the coming years. And talk about what can you do now as a community, or group of communities, as damage control in the fall-out of this election. Sometimes, that action can be as simple as saying to LGBTQA, Muslim, African American, Latinx, women's and disabled communities, "We are here for you, we are ready to help you, and if things get rough we will have your back. What do you need?"

That focus on building community on a local level can also help you look to the bright spots, few though they may be, of this election. For instance, Arizona voted out a sadistic sheriff and women of color made historic victories. Hillary Clinton also did get the popular vote: more people voted for her than for Trump. These things may feel insignificant in the face of so many people voting for Trump, and supporting what he stands for, but they tell us something. They tell us that there are still plenty of people who want to push forwards as a country, people who do not buy into bigoted rhetoric. And if those smaller victories can be made, larger ones are still possible. That even if the national level is about to be one giant trash-fire, local politics can still push in enlightened directions.

Finally, have courage.

I know that sounds corny, but I firmly believe it is true. For some of you, that courage will be needed to simply survive the next four years. That is an immense victory, though I wish it was not a battle you'd ever have to face. For those who have the ability to do so, courage will be needed to resist injustice in ways large and small. That will not be easy, and those efforts will not always succeed. But if those who take power decide to strip away rights from LGBTQA communities or Muslim communities, if they or their followers threaten the safety of Latinx or Black communities, we will need to stand up, to keep fighting. We will need to bolster courage in ourselves and in each other.

Courage, right now, may feel incredibly out of reach. But I would not be championing it if I didn't believe it (I'm no fan of bullshit in times of crisis). Our greatest strength as humans is to come together when the time calls for it. To care for those who need it, to fight for those who are vulnerable. To love each other, to exist, resist, and thrive in the face of ideologies that tell us we cannot. We have that potential inside of us. We will face whatever comes and we will help each other through it. We will overcome.

I see the response to Trump's election from you who are younger than me. I see in you that most magnificent of refusals: that you don't believe the ideology of Trump is the best we can expect from our country and from each other. And that gives me courage.

We, Scarleteen, have been around for almost two decades before this election. We will be around after it. We will keep doing what we do.

To those of you who are survivors, who are queer, who are women, who are Muslim, who are of color, who are disabled, who are already poor, to anyone who is now looking at the future with fear:

We love you. And we will stand by you.

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